In 1869, a 15-year old Palestinian girl named Miriam Karam mustered up the courage to ask two Quaker visitors to Ramallah, Eli and Sybil Jones, to start a girl’s school in the area. At that time, no education program existed for women in this region. Before long, a medical mission and boarding school for girls was in place. By 1902, a similar boarding school for boys was created by Friends.
It is doubtful that Miriam, Sybil, or Eli could ever have imagined what Ramallah Friends School (RFS) would look like in the 21st century. As the only accredited International Baccalaureate (IB) World School in Palestine, RFS offers an innovative and multi-disciplinary education that prepares Palestinian young people to be outstanding scholars, leaders, and change-makers in their community and around the world. Nurtured in an academic and community life guided by Christian Quaker values and spirituality, the School aims to impact both Christian and Muslim students in a wholistic and life-changing way.
Despite being located in one of the most challenging places on the planet, RFS continues to thrive. Through a terrific partnership with USAid/American Hospitals and Schools Abroad, the School has been able to build a world-class facility. Even with the constant pressure of living under occupation and the regular threat of violence, RFS consistently prepares students who are ready to thrive in college or university, work and service.
In 1974, Violet Zaru, a Palestinian Quaker, founded a preschool in the Amari Refugee Camp near Ramallah, to help address the lack of early childhood resources in the camp, and the need for refugee children to receive trauma healing support in a safe and loving environment. Today, the Amari Play Center works with 40-50 children per year, with three dedicated and qualified staff. FUM partners with Friends World Committee’s European and Middle East Section and Palestinian Appeal to sponsor the Play Center.
Along with the School and the Play Center, FUM continues to stand with the small community of Quakers who worship and serve through Ramallah Friends Meeting. It is common on a Sunday morning in Ramallah to find international visitors joining residents members for worship in the historic Meetinghouse. This community is a beacon of hope for Friends around the world and an example of the difference which can be made through a resilient ministry of presence. As FUM looks to the future, we are exploring new ways we are being called to be Christ’s light and love in Palestine.